Author: Gordon Smith

Questions About Lucifer

We believe that Lucifer, the Son of the Morning (Isaiah 14:12), fell while still in the premortal existence. This fall resulted in Lucifer being eternally deprived of a physical body. Ultimately, he will dwell in Outer Darkness, where there is “weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” (Alma 40:13) In the meantime, Lucifer, and the spirits who followed him in the War in Heaven (Revelation 12:7), play a role in the Plan of Salvation, for “it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.” (D&C 29:39)

Good Examples

Recently, through Times & Seasons, I reconnected with a friend from BYU and Law School. Sean Lindsay is now working as an attorney for Qwest in Denver. We first met at BYU, where both of us worked as tutors in the Reading and Writing Center along with another law school classmate, Shawn Bentley. (Just a side note: the Director of the Reading and Writing Center at that time was a kind professor named William Shakespeare!) By the time that I was deciding where to attend law school, Sean had left BYU and was pursuing a Ph.D in English at the University of Chicago.

STQ: Sustaining Church Leaders

My Seminary class just completed 1 Samuel, which tells the story of Saul’s reign over Israel. As you know, the people of Israel demanded a king to replace the corrupt judges. (1 Samuel 8:19-20) Samuel was inspired to choose Saul. On the day before they met for the first time, the Lord told Samuel, “To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel.” (1 Samuel 9:16) Samuel does, in fact, annoint Saul, and the people accept him as their king. (1 Samuel 10)

Doing the Right Thing

Mormons believe in revelation. Within limits. Admittedly, what I am about to say is a gross overgeneralization, but I hope that it will provoke some interesting discussion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a rich tradition of public and private revelation, but in my experience, most members of the Church do not trust in their own ability to receive revelation. Moreover, those who profess to receive revelation often are viewed with skepticism by other members. Given that our history includes lunatics like the Laffertys, such skepticism is not without foundation. Nevertheless, I think we shortchange ourselves through our fear.

Competing for Members

Yesterday, my bishop announced that our excellent Primary chorister was being released from that calling so that she could serve as the Ward Communications Specialist. Her new job is to provide content for the ward website. After putting the kibosh on local websites a few years ago, the Church has recently begun to encourage their use. What I found most interesting about my bishop’s remarks was the marketing motivation for this move: in a ward that is leanly staffed, we are putting one of our most competent members in charge of the website because we want to attract move-ins.


Three days ago, I returned from a faculty development program in Delhi, India. While I attempted to adjust to Central Standard Time immediately upon arrival, I wasn’t successful. On Saturday afternoon, I fell exhausted on my bed and took a much-needed nap. Unfortunately, I awoke just in time to send the rest of my family to bed, and I have been awake since, reading and pondering. Something I encountered on Times & Seasons inspired me to write this entry. I hope that you will not begrudge me the opportunity to share a testimony in this sea of intellectualism.

East Coast Bias

College sports fans debate endlessly about a supposed East Coast bias among sports writers and polls. Most recently, this issue was raised in connection with the omission of the University of Southern California from the so-called “national championship” football game. As a Midwesterner, I feel obliged to expose the East Coast bias of Times & Seasons.

Does God Need Us?

In some circles, just asking this question requires some serious chutzpah. The “man is nothing” crowd would find the mere suggestion that God needs us offensive. Nevertheless, we have several indications in Mormon doctrine that God needs His children. Perhaps most important is Moses 1:39: “this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” The notion of mutual interdependence is pervasive in the Gospel. For example, we believe that individuals (families) are bound together in the eternities, and that “[t]he dead are not perfect without us, neither are we without them.” (Joseph F. Smith) All of this suggests to me that God is not a solitary being. To press the point even further, He cannot be a solitary being; that is, the very definition of God implies community. I am not sure that all of this matters very much, but it seems to cast my relationships with family and friends…

Confused About Grace and Works

I recently had a conversation with a self-described Christian, who was eager to teach me about the doctrine of grace. When I quoted 2 Nephi 25:23 (“We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”), my companion scoffed. He said this was similar to saying, “We fly from India to the United States on an airplane, after all we can do.” In other words, Jesus does so much and we do so little that our part is not worth mentioning.

Situating Zion

We had some wonderful discussion about Zion in the lengthy comments on Material Prosperity, and I would like to revisit the topic here. My visit to India will end this week, and I have been confronted again and again with thoughts about helping the poor. Today, we visited a government heritage park; as we walked along a path, we came upon a family — two parents and a small child — sitting atop a pile of used bricks. Our guide explained that they were employed by the park to turn the bricks into dust for use in the restoration materials. They lived on site. The mother was using a small hammer, like we would use to hang a picture in our living room. The sight of mother and child moved many of us nearly to tears.

Encounter on the Plane to India

I am happy to report that my trip to India went smoothly. Two long plane rides, but my luggage and my hosts were both waiting on the other end, much to my relief. Moreover, I was pleased to find that my room (a dorm room at the Management Development Institute just outside of Delhi) has a computer with internet access. Thus, this post.

Consecration: A Practical Suggestion

One of my pet peeves is the comment, often heard in Sunday School, that “the Lord has not asked us to live the law of consecration.” Those who have been to the temple should know better. The more pressing question for me is how to implement this relatively simple law. This seems to be the current topic of conversation under the Material Prosperity thread below, which, like the Eveready Bunny, just keeps on going. In this post, I want to propose a practical way of thinking about consecration.

Just Curious …

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you must have noticed the ever-changing header in the sidebar. The one that says, “Quite possibly the most ______, yet _______, onymous Mormon group blog in history.” When I first started blogging here — on the second day of the life of Times & Seasons — this thing (what do we call it?) was already in place. I find it oddly entertaining, and sometimes I just reload my browser again and again to see what comes up. I tend to like the simple ones. Here is my favorite from today: “Quite possibly the most admired, yet cryptic, onymous Mormon group blog in history.” Kaimi just informed us that our adjective list is 374 words, but we are always looking for more. Feel free to make suggestions in the Comments below. In the meantime, I am just curious: What was your initial reaction to the description of the blog (whatever that might…

Natural Disasters

John P. Pratt’s recent column at Meridian sent me reeling. (Thanks to Brent for the pointer.) While Pratt tries not to overstate his thesis, the gist of the column is that God (sometimes?) punishes local populations for their wickedness by inflicting natural disasters. The Old Testament is replete with such occurrences, but as regular patrons of this blog know, my understanding is that many (perhaps most) of these stories are metaphorical. Even if you disagree with me about that, I hope that we can agree that Pratt’s analysis is sadly deficient.

Mormon Doctrine: The Legacy

A few years ago, another law professor asked me what I thought of Richard Posner’s legacy with respect to law and economics. For those of you who do not inhabit this world, Posner is generally credited with popularizing the economic analysis of law, partly through his articles, but largely through the influence of his book, Economic Analysis of Law, now in its sixth edition. At first blush, discussion of his legacy might seem silly. Surely, the great Richard Posner had a salutary influence on the so-called Law & Economics Movement. But we wondered whether Posner’s proclivity for overreaching and sensationalism might not have tainted that legacy. Would economic analysis of law be more widely embraced today without him? Just recently, inspired by my holiday reading on evolution, I have again wondered the same thing about Bruce R. McConkie and Mormon Doctrine. While I have strong positive feelings about the late Elder McConkie, I joined the Church after the revelation regarding…

“Goodly Parents”

Jim reminds us that next week begins a change in the Gospel Doctrine curriculum. This year’s course of study is, without a doubt, my favorite book in the world, The Book of Mormon. I hope to see a vigorous discussion of Jim’s provocative study questions, but I am going to anticipate him by a week or two with a post about the first verse of the Book of Mormon: “I, NEPHI, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father.” In my humble opinion, this verse does not mean what most of us think it means.

God and Football

Living in Wisconsin, I have observed that the line between religion and football is thin. During my formative years, I was the lone Minnesota Vikings fan in a small Wisconsin town. Fortunately for me, the Vikings were quite good during the 1970s … although never quite good enough to win the Super Bowl. More importantly, the Green Bay Packers stunk during those years. After I joined the Church in the early 1980s, I stopped paying attention to professional football because I wanted to keep the Sabbath Day holy, and professional football does not have much to recommend it in that regard.


As is evident from my participation on this blog, I am not a scientist, but I enjoy reading good, non-technical, science writers. One I really like is Carl Zimmer, who blogs at The Loom. He writes a lot about evolution and genetics. Ady Hahn (our guest blogger who is currently on Christmas break) promised to talk about evolution later, but after reading the latest entry at The Loom, I feel the desire to press the issue.

The Foreknowledge of God

I just fulfilled a longstanding promise to myself: I finally read the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. I have had many false starts on this project over the years. Asimov was not a great stylist, though he had many interesting ideas. The Foundation books are animated by one such idea: psychohistory. For those who haven’t read the books, I would describe psychohistory as the use of history, psychology, sociology, and mathematics to examine the behavior of large groups of people. While individual behavior cannot be predicted, psychohistory can (more or less) accurately predict the fate of millions. Is this how God works?

Lord of the Rings

I saw the third installment tonight. The triology is an awesome accomplishment, but I still liked the books better than the movie. As you may know already, the movie has generated a plethora of Christian reviews (see here for links), mostly positive. Does this strike anyone else as odd?

Baptisms for the Dead

This morning I had the privilege of participating in a youth temple trip to Chicago. My job was to act as a witness in baptisms for the dead. While many Mormons revere this ordinance, people outside the Church often take offense. In fact, a story in tomorrow’s New York Times describes how the Church is under fire again for baptizing Jews.

STQ: Material Prosperity

My Seminary class is just finishing the book of Deuteronomy and moving into Joshua. This is an important moment in the history of Israel, as the Children of Israel are finally allowed to enter the Promised Land. Of course, Moses is deprived of the right to accompany them, and before he leaves he offers a blessing.

Families: Isn’t It About Time?

Many of you will recognize the title of this post as the tag line for the Church’s latest ad campaign. A previous campaign proclaimed, “Time? I’ve got as much as anybody!” We in the Church are obsessed with time. In a post below, Ady discusses the challenges of being an LDS woman and a scientist. Like all of us, Ady feels the pull of various responsibilities, and the constraints imposed by the scarce resource, time. In my view, time management is one of the most important tasks we face in this life.

Gay Marriage Humor

This was sent to me by my friend Dan Burk, who is currently a visiting professor at Berkeley: The consecration of Gene Robison as bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese of the Episcopal Church is an affront to Christians everywhere. I am just thankful that the church’s founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, and his wife Anne Boleyn, and his wife Jane Seymour, and his wife Anne of Cleves, and his wife Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer through this assault on traditional Christian marriage. — Paul Emmons, Westchester University

Christian Taxation

We have been interviewing candidates for a position as tax professor, but here is a question that I haven’t dared to ask any of them: So, how do you feel about reforming the tax code to accord with moral principles of Judeo-Christian ethics? If you haven’t heard, this is the premise of Professor Susan Pace Hamill’s still-controversial proposal, published last year in the Alabama Law Review.

Ben Olson

If you do not know the name Ben Olson, you are not a BYU football fan. A few years back, he was the No. 1 high school football prospect in the land, and he chose to attend BYU. After one year as a “redshirt” player (meaning that he did not use one of his years of college eligibility), Ben decided to go on a mission, and he was called to Canada. ESPN recently published a story about his mission. This is from the author of the story: “Ben said something during our interview that stuck with me,” Wojciechowski said later. “He said, ‘Some things you pay a price to do, and you don’t count the consequences.’ Ben isn’t counting the consequences this might have on his own playing career, or on the careers of others. I respect that sort of commitment.” Me, too.


Like almost everyone, I am thrilled that Saddam is finally in custody. He is a bad man, and the world is a better place when he is not in power. As I see the reactions of the Iraqui people, I feel a cautious joy for them. Cautious because they have a long road yet to travel. Another part of me wonder whether this is a prelude to the opening of Iraq and perhaps other countries in the region to missionary work. After watching the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain fall less than a decade after completing my mission in Austria, I am open to all kinds of miracles in the name of missionary work.

“Chances for learning”

Here is a scripture that concerns me: And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning, yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches. Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God. And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up…. (3 Nephi 6:12-14) A few years back, the Church announced that it would not be building another Church university (at least at the time) and that BYU for the first time would begin rejecting applicants who had met minimum educational achievement requirements. I believe that this development has unleased an important change in Church…

STQ: Translation

Ever since Nate and Greg started features, I have had my eye out for something that I could contribute. Tonight, as I was preparing my Seminary lesson for tomorrow, I got some inspiration : how about a Seminary Thought Question? OK, let’s try this out. If you like it, we’ll do more. If you don’t like it, we’ll just pretend this never happened. The idea is for me to pose a gnarly question from my Seminary preparation, a question with no obvious right answer, and then allow for discussion. Here goes STQ #1 …